In his second State of the City speech, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. touted accomplishments during his first year on the job, while calling for a one cent sales tax that would be spent on quality of life, infrastructure, economic development and early childhood education.
Calling it the “Lift Little Rock” sales tax, Scott said one cent would raise an additional $50 million annually for the various projects.
“We’ve got to think big, plan ahead and lift Little Rock to higher heights,” Scott said. “It is time that we lift Little Rock to its full potential.”
Scott said the funding would go toward quality of life projects such as updating the Little Rock Zoo, adding amenities to the War Memorial Park area in midtown, update the Jim Dailey fitness center, build a senior center, and complete more bike trails. Additionally, he said there would be investments from the penny into public safety, road infrastructure and early childhood education for all Little Rock children.
Little Rock’s city sales tax is 1.5%, but a 3/8th of a cent tax is set to roll off in 2021. That tax helped fund the Little Rock Tech Park, the Little Rock Port Authority expansion, numerous infrastructure projects, and additional public safety measures.
Scott provided a spreadsheet of cities surrounding Little Rock with their sales tax levels. Included in the chart was Benton, Bryant, Cabot, Conway, Jacksonville, Maumelle, North Little Rock, and Sherwood – all of which have higher sales taxes than Little Rock.
He also said he remained committed to expanding opportunities in the capital city for women and minorities.
“Change requires intentionality,” Scott said. While touting that women and minority appointees to city committees has increased over last year, he said he was opening applications for a Chief Equity Officer, a position he wants to emphasize more diversity in the public and private sector. Scott said he hoped to improve women and minority business spending by the city to 25% over the next three years.
The new mayor also outlined several accomplishments that he was proud to have acted on in the last year. They included:
- Funding for body-worn cameras for police officers;
- Improved police relations;
- The earliest balanced budget in decades;
- A 5% increase in sales tax collections resulting in $4 million more in the city treasury;
- Plans for a national opportunity zone conference to highlight Little Rock; and
- Appointing Dr. Jay Barth as the city’s first Chief Education Officer.
Scott also touted the good economic news for the city, but hinted that even better news was on the way. He highlighted 1,000 new jobs resulting in $54 million of new payroll as well as $174 million in new capital investments. He said there was a good possibility that those numbers could double in the first quarter of 2020 due to pending announcements.
“The state of our city is stronger than it was a year ago,” Scott said.